Ford, 'Borat' light up Rome fest


ROME -- Harrison Ford presented super agent Jim Berkus with a special award for agents and managers at the inaugural RomaCinemaFest on Friday as the last of 16 competition titles unspooled at the festival.

Also earning a prize Friday was Giuseppe Tornatore's "La Sconosciuta" (The Unknown), which was chosen as the best film in the Premiere sidebar event.

Berkus, the president and founder of United Talent Agency, was given the first Patricia McQueeney Award for agents and managers. The award -- named in honor of Ford's longtime agent, who died last year at the age of 77 -- will become a staple of the RomaCinemaFest, organizers said.

Berkus was selected by a four-person committee chaired by Ford. The 64-year-old actor said he will remain involved in selecting future honorees for the award.

"This award is very special to me because it is named in the honor of someone I loved and respected," he said.

For his part, Berkus said he was honored to be the recipient of the prize but that he preferred working in the background rather than in the glare of stage lights and with flash bulbs popping.

"I told Harrison before hand that I couldn't think about that part of it or I'd go crazy," Berkus said in an interview. "But it's a great honor named for one of the giants in our field. Needless to say, I'm very pleased."

Ford's arrival was one of the highlights of the day. But Sacha Baron Cohen's satire "Borat" also caused a buzz.

The 20th Century Fox release, which has prompted protests from the government of Kazakhstan for the way its country is portrayed, features Cohen as a Kazakhstani journalist who travels to the U.S. to make a documentary. It premiered Friday to enthusiastic crowds. A small crowd also gathered outside the premiere of the film to protest its characterization of Jews.

The final three in-competition films also screened Friday: Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov's "Izobrajaya Zhertvy" (Playing the Victim), Italian helmer Francesca Comencini's "A Casa Nostra (To Our House) and fellow Italian Roberto Ando's "Viaggio Segreto" (Secret Journey).

Saturday is the festival's most important day, with awards for best in-competition film, actor and actress to be handed out.

Additionally, Robert De Niro will arrive to help cement the alliance between the first-year Rome event and the 5-year-old Tribeca Film Festival in New York that De Niro co-founded.